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Survival Migration: A Study of Central American Transwomen’s Decision to Flee

Citation: de Nicolás Izquierdo, Cristina (2022) Survival Migration: A Study of Central American Transwomen’s Decision to Flee. [Discussion or working paper]

RLI WPS No. 61.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Systematic research on transgender migration is limited and mostly focused on the ‘during’ and ‘post’ stages of displacement. Little attention has been paid to the decision-making process and pre-migration phase. In Central America, transwomen face severe discrimination, marginalization and abuses based on their gender identity and are exposed to constant physical and sexual violence. Despite limited data, reports show that they are part of the new wave of international displacement affecting the region. Analysing why they flee and the factors contributing to their decision is essential to understand the multiple facets of displacement and this often-invisible phenomenon. This study uses life-stories to deepen the knowledge of transwomen’s decision-making to flee across borders, often following multiple life experiences of internal displacement. It uses the concept of ‘survival migration’ to describe movements that literally save their lives, situations of flight that result from the deprivation of basic rights and from persecution, exploring how the broad range of factors affecting the decision interrelate. The findings suggest that although seeking a safe place in which it would be possible to build a better life is important, their life experiences, and the decisions they make are complex. The changing circumstances in which their reactive or preventive movements occur will determine the nature of their decision to flee across borders. Often for them, migration does not necessarily mean freedom, but a limited strategy to survive. The objective of this study is to provide a new insight into the complexity of transwomen’s decisions to flee. In doing so, it contributes to the knowledge about this community, and the urgent need to listen to them in order to understand the multitude of interconnected reasons underpinning their decisions to migrate.

Creators: de Nicolás Izquierdo, Cristina and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Latin American Studies
Sociology & Anthropology
Keywords: Transwomen, Central America, violence, survival, migration
Divisions: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Collections: Refugee Law Initiative
  • 7 February 2022 (published)


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